Take Your Shot: Preaching in a Liturgical Context

 |  February 24, 2020

Some of the best marksmen in the world are known for hitting targets at distances over a mile away. Imagine attempting to hit a target you can barely see with your eye! Shooting with that type of precision is no simple task. A precision shooter will account for a variety of factors within his given arena before squeezing the trigger. Windage, elevation, the movement of the intended target, temperature, and humidity can all play a role in determining how to place the shot. All of these factors must be taken into account before the shot is taken.

Yes, this is a preaching blog. However, preachers can learn a few things from the example of precision shooters. In fact, preachers and marksmen have at least two things in common. First, both preachers and marksmen need a thorough understanding of the specific context in which they operate. Second, they both need to make calculated adjustments if they are going to hit their intended targets.

Preachers study, pray, and prepare to meet their audiences in the liturgical context of a worship service. The liturgy of a worship service describes the way the service is ordered. All worship services have some type of liturgy. Liturgy can be simple or complex. However, every church worship service will have some form of structure or practice that guides them through the time. This liturgical context provides preachers several opportunities to make calculated adjustments that will help them communicate their sermons with greater precision.

What adjustments can you make in corporate worship to aid in presenting the Word of God in the context of a worship service? Below are four ideas that will help you match your worship context with the content of your sermon.

Aim for Awe in Worship

Every passage of Scripture contains an awe-inspiring idea or theme. Does the passage reveal God’s glory, mercy, love, patience, sovereignty, or wrath? Is there a truth to be believed? Scripture always provides some form of awe-inspiring truth. Once your study has revealed a few awe-inspiring truths, consider how to communicate these truths throughout the rest of the worship time. Selecting music that matches the themes or ideas of the passage is a great place to start. Daniel Block writes that “music should be selected and presented to glorify God and promote reverence and awe.”[1]Daniel I. Block, For the Glory of God: Rediscovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014). Songs can be selected to complement the same themes or ideas found in the passage. Singing about the ideas you will be preaching will strengthen the connection between the text and your audience.

Aim for Awe in the Physical Environment

Take things a step further by thinking visually about the space in which you will be preaching. How can you incorporate visuals into the worship environment to point to the theme or idea of your sermon? Consider the use of artwork, graphics, banners, videos, and other media that correspond to your theme. A beautiful and strategically placed piece of scarlet cloth or white fabric on a cross might communicate something that will remain with your audience long after the conclusion of the sermon. Using media and visual elements is no substitution for good preaching. However, the effect of mirroring the theme of your passage in the physical environment of the worship space is more likely to result in a memorable experience for people.

Aim for Awe with an Artifact

Can you use a particular object, tool, or prop to communicate clearly the idea of your sermon? I recently preached a five-part series about life’s most important priorities. Each sermon was an exposition that focused on a specific Christian priority. I used color-coated concrete blocks to represent each priority. Each week I added a new block corresponding to priorities, such as God, marriage, and family. The result was a clear visual aid corresponding to the sermon series. Weeks after the conclusion of the sermon series, some still ask, “Pastor, when are you going to use the blocks again?”

Aim for Awe with Clear Language

Albert Einstein is known for saying, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” Scripture is complex. Yet, a sermon should deliver the truth in a way that is simple, understandable, and memorable.  Why not share your sermon manuscript with a few trusted friends or advisors? Ask some diagnostic questions: Is the main idea clear? Are the sub-points easy to comprehend? Do the introduction and conclusion fit the passage? Would a fifth-grader get this? Constructive feedback can be invaluable and can help you preach with language that is simple, clear, and easy to understand.

J. Dace Clifton is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hico, Texas, an adjunct professor at Arlington Baptist University, and a regular contributor to Daily Pastor.


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